Dr Liam Gearon

Senior Research Fellow; Associate Professor of Religious Education

Dr Liam Francis Gearon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Education and Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford.

A philosopher and theorist of education, Liam Francis Gearon is a specialist in critical, historical and contemporary analyses of education in multi-disciplinary contexts. His research takes a multiplicity of methodological and theoretical approaches:

  • philosophical and history of ideas approaches to religion in education, particularly focused on the epistemological foundations of contemporary religious education, post-Enlightenment paradigms of religion in education, political theologies, particularly the politicisation and securitisation of religion in education (key works including the award-winning On Holy Ground; MasterClass in Religious Education; and highlighted in numerous journal articles discussing the ‘Gearon-Jackson’ debate);
  • philosophy of education through history of ideas applications to cultural and political life, particularly analyses of the arts and literature, including multiple grant funded projects, articles, edited collections, monographs, seminars, conferences and international colloquia with beyond-the-Academy impacts;
  • the historical emergence and contemporary governance of human rights education, particularly historical-political framings of totalitarianism;
  • the historical and theoretical framing of UK-US security and intelligence agency relationships with universities, including a guest edited volume of British Journal of Educational Studies which initiated this sub-field, conceptualisations of the securitised university, and collaborations with US Military Intelligence on research ethics; and, drawing together many elements of the foregoing;
  • the historical determinants of counter-extremism in education, including recent substantial articles on counter-terrorism, publications on value learning and the life trajectory, and empirical research with Arniika Kuusisto (Helsinki/Stockholm/Oxford) on value learning and life history research in political and security contexts, a four year collaborative project funded by the Academy of Finland.

Concurrently Conjoint Professor at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Liam was formerly Adjunct Professor at the Australian Catholic University and also previously Professor of Education at the University of Roehampton and Research Professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Plymouth. With a published doctorate in English Literature, I am the author and or editor of over thirty books and seventy peer-review articles and chapters in a multiple range of disciplines, including the arts, literature and philosophy, political theology, as well as citizenship, human rights and religion in education.

As Principal Investigator, he led research projects over twenty years, with funding including the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, and the Society for Educational Studies, with recent co-investigator roles with the Academy of Finland.

For over two decades, this scholarship has transgressed but interconnected the epistemological boundaries between the arts, humanities and social sciences, enabling new theoretical directions and research collaborations to create problem-solving frameworks for interdisciplinary investigation.

He has delivered keynote lectures, seminars and colloquia in Australia, Austria, Canada, Dubai, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Georgia (former Soviet Union), Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.

He has recently convened two major international invitation-colloquia which have attempted to extend the theoretical boundaries of educational studies. With substantial funding from the Society for Educational Studies, these colloquia were both convened at Oriel College, Oxford:

  • Education, Security and Intelligence Studies (2017)
  • Writers and their Education (with Emma Williams) (2018)

Further details are available at http://soc-for-ed-studies.org.uk/seminars/, and both colloquia continuing to produce a number of individual and collaborative research outputs.

He has guest edited seven international peer-review journals, including the British Journal of Children’s Spirituality (on Children’s Rights), the British Journal of Religious Education (on Religion, Human Rights and Religious Education), Education Research International (with Kirsi Tirri, Terence Lovat and Elizabeth Campbell on The Moral Core of Teaching); the British Journal of Educational Studies (twice, on Education, Security and Intelligence Studies; and guest editing this journal a second time for a forthcoming special issue on Writers and their Education); the international journal Religions for a special issue on Religion, Security and Education; and with Emma Williams the Journal of Philosophy of Education (on Philosophy, Literature and Education).

A Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), Liam Francis Gearon is an appointed member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Peer Review College and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Peer Review College, serving too on the Peer Review College of Research Councils UK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

He has also made sustained contributions of service to the following international research councils: Academy of Finland; Austrian Science Fund; EU 7th Framework Program for Research; Hong Kong Research Grants Council’s Public Policy Research Fund; Irish Research Council; National Research Foundation, South Africa; and  Templeton Foundation.

A graduate of the Curtis Brown novel-writing course, his debut novel, Eleven Notebooks, is published in 2018. A further novel is forthcoming, The Corridor of Centuries.

Selected invitation/keynote lectures, seminar series and colloquia

September 2018: Convener, with Emma Williams, of the Oriel Colloquium on Writers and their Education, 20-21 September 2018 at Oriel College, University of Oxford.

The Writers and their Education Colloquium brings together scholarly and literary-professional examination of conceptions, perceptions and representations of education in the lives and works of writers across all genres of literary fiction (biography, criticism, drama, fiction, poetry, including children’s literature), and research writing in the arts, humanities and social sciences. The Colloquium takes a fresh look at the influences of education, broadly conceived, manifested in the lives and works of authors. The Colloquium features international keynote addresses from City University New York; University of California at Berkley; and Harvard University.

September 2017: Convener of the Oriel Colloquium on Universities, Security and Intelligence Studies, 21-22 at Oriel College, University of Oxford.

This event reflects an important landmark in a programme of inter-disciplinary innovation at the interface of education, security and intelligence studies, including the Annual Seminar of the Society for Educational Studies at the British Academy (November 2015), guest editorship of the British Journal of Educational Studies, the 2016 funded seminar series Education, Security and Intelligence Studies. The Colloquium sees the launch of Gearon (Ed.) (2017) Education, Security and Intelligence Studies and notification of the forthcoming Gearon (Ed.) (2018) Routledge International Handbook of Universities, Security and Intelligence Studies.

Keynote speakers at the Oriel Colloquium included: Professor Christopher Andrew (Emeritus Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge, and official historian of MI5); Professor Loch K. Johnson (Regents Professor of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia, author or editor of thirty books on security and intelligence studies, including The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence); Sir David Omand, former Director of GCHQ; and Professor John R. Ferris, official historian of GCHQ.

As well as a multi-disciplinary range of leading academics in security and intelligence studies, speakers included security and intelligence professionals, notably the former Senior Defence Economist to NATO and Adviser to the 12th NATO General Secretary; a speaker on national security resilience and counter-terrorism from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Whitehall; a Senior Officer of Military Intelligence at the United States Military Academy West Point; colleagues from Boston College talking with the FBI on university-intelligence service relations and cyber security; a former senior MI6 officer and Cold War diplomat (Berlin Station); a former CIA Intelligence Officer speaking on the International Association for Intelligence Education); former Chief Scientific Officer at the Home Office; the British Council; the Cabinet Office (Civil Contingencies Secretariat); the Foreign Office (National Security Directorate);; amongst others.

The Colloquium maintained a special interest in the security and intelligence aspects of the arts, humanities and literature. Presiding over this section was Dr Alastair Niven LVO, OBE, a judge of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1994 and of the Man Booker Prize in 2014, former Principal of Cumberland Lodge Windsor and President of English PEN, Alastair also uniquely held posts as Director of Literature at the Arts Council of Great Britain and Director of Literature at the British Council. Andrew Lownie, literary agent and author of Stalin’s Englishman, also presented in this section; as did Bill Hamilton, literary agent for the estate of George Orwell.

August 2017: Invited symposium with Arniika Kuusisto: ‘Value Learning Trajectories: Theory, Method, Context, European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), University of Tampere, Finland.

This event was also the occasion for the book launch of Kuusisto & Gearon (Eds.) Value Learning Trajectories: Theory, Method, Context (Waxmann, 2017), an interdisciplinary and international venture published with the support of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Special Interest Group 19: Religious and Spiritual Education and for Arniika Kuusisto funding through the Academy of Finland. In this book we co-author three substantial chapters establishing fresh new directions in the theoretical, methodological and contextual understanding as well as practical, empirical approaches to values research in relation to life trajectory and life biographies: Gearon and Kuusisto (2017) ‘On Theory: Framing Value Learning in Life Trajectory Research’; Kuusisto and Gearon (2017) ‘On Method: Researching Value Learning and Life Trajectories – Dialogue, Diversity and Inter-Disciplinarity’; Gearon and Kuusisto (2017) ‘On Context: Value Learning and Life Trajectories Research In Situ – Historical-Political Systems, Spectrums of Value, Biographical Positionings’. Our Value Learning Trajectories: Theory, Method, Context is an innovative cross-disciplinary collection with contributing empirical researchers from several European countries, as well as from Australia, Ethiopia and Iran

July 2017: Keynote lecture, ‘Counter-Terrorism on Campus: – Deep Background to Prevent – What is the relationship between schools/ universities and the security and intelligence agencies?’ Counter-Terrorism Delphi Conference, University of St. Mark and St. John.

June 2017: US Military Academy Office Cadets presentation on ethics, convened by Major Scott Parson, US Military Intelligence, US Military Academy, hosted at Pembroke College, University of Oxford.

March 2017: Invited guest – at the invitation of Boston College and the FBI, First Boston College Conference on Cybersecurity, with Hon James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

October 2016: Invited lecture, ‘The Politicization and Securitization of Religion in Education: A Response to a Rejoinder’, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Philosophische Fakultät und Fachbereich Theologie, 12th International Nuremberg Forum 2016 ‘Public Theology – Religion – Education. Interreligious Perspectives’ http://www.nuernberger-forum.uni-erlangen.org/Forum2016/Abstracts/abstract_gearon.pdf

2016: Awarded the 2016 Society for Educational Studies Seminar Series Award to advance a multi-disciplinary and multi-institution programme on education, security and intelligence studies. Key collaborators and their themes were:

  • The Oxford Intelligence Group, Nuffield College, Oxford on ‘Forensic and Open Source Intelligence: Social Science Methodologies’ (7 June 2016)
  • Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies with the Department of Education, University of Bath on ‘Education, Security and Society’ (27 June 2016)
  • University of East London on ‘Universities and Security Research: A Fragile Relationship?’ (16 November 2016)
  • The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security (RUSI), Whitehall, on ‘Security and the Arts and Humanities’ (21 November 2016)
  • The Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham (BUCSIS) on ‘Universities, Academic Research and Britain’s National Security’ (5 December 2016)

The focused programme of seminars has now successfully undertaken their intended work of advancing knowledge and research agendas across the theme.

December 2015: Convener with Emma Williams of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain funded seminar series on Philosophy, Literature and Education, Inaugural seminar: An Ancient Quarrel, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford

February 2016: Convener with Emma Williams of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain funded seminar series on Philosophy, Literature and Education, Seminar Two: Themes:

  • The philosophical and educational potential of the political novel
  • The uses of literature (and other dramatic genres) in effecting moral, social and political change
  • Powerful writing: its uses and abuses in educational contexts

University of Warwick

May 2016: Convener with Emma Williams of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain funded seminar series on Philosophy, Literature and Education, Closing Seminar: Lessons from Dystopia: Literature, Political Philosophy and Citizenship Education, British Academy, London

May 2016: ‘Writers and their Dictators: Authors. Citizens, Educators’ seminar presentation to the closing seminar Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain funded seminar series on Philosophy, Literature and Education, British Academy, London.

November 2015: Convener, Annual Seminar, Society for Educational Studies, ‘Education, Security and Intelligence Studies’, British Academy.

January 2015: ‘On Holy Ground’, Invited public research seminar, University of Exeter.

October 2014: ‘On Holy Ground’, Inaugural Lecture, Irish Centre for Catholic Studies, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland.

May 2014 Plenary speaker, ‘MasterClass in Religious Education’, Evangelisch-Theologische Fakultät der Universität Wien, Institut für Religionspädagogik, Wien, Vienna University.

March 2014: Lead for symposium on Philosophy, Literature and Education with Prof RD Smith (Durham), Prof Robert Davies (Glasgow), Prof James Conroy (Glasgow) and Prof Sharon Todd (Stockholm), Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, New College, Oxford.

February 2014: Visiting lecturer, Education and the Arts, University of Navarra, Spain.

November 2013: ‘On Holy Ground’, Invited research seminar, School of Education, University of Exeter.

November 2013: ‘On Holy Ground’, keynote, colloquium, Broken Bay Institute, Sydney, Australia.

June 2013: ‘Writers and their Dictators: authors, citizens, educators’, Washington College summer school, Oriel College, Oxford.

May 2013: ‘Writers and their Dictators: authors, citizens, educators’, at the invitation of Professor Concepción Naval, 2012-13 Oliver Smithies Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at Balliol College, a contribution to the Oliver Smithies lectures, Balliol College, Oxford.

May 2012: Invited presentation, ‘Religion and Education: Conflict or Congruence?’ for ‘Religion, Conflict and Global Governance’, jointly convened by the Centre for International Studies, the Academic Council for the United Nations System and the Center for Sustainable Development & International Peace at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Oxford.

March-April 2012: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre, Leverhulme Research Fellowship funded archival research, University of Texas at Austin, USA.

February 2012: Keynote, Annual Cardinal Winning Lecture, University of Glasgow.

October 2011: Keynote, ‘Education for democratic citizenship – a role for the churches?’ Conference of European Churches, Strasbourg, France.

June 2011: Public seminar, ‘Writers and their Dictators’, Department of Education, University of Oxford.

May 2011: Keynote, ‘The King James Version and the Politics of Religious Education:  England and the United States in Comparative Historical Perspective 1611-2011’, University of Sheffield.

February 2011: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre, Leverhulme Research Fellowship funded archival research, University of Texas at Austin, USA.

December 2010: Keynote/ expert seminar: ‘Religion, State and State Education’, Dubai.

August 2010: ‘Religion, Education and Extremism: Counter Terrorism in the
Classroom’, European Educational Research Association, Helsinki, Finland.

July 2010: Plenary/ keynote, ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief’, ISREV, Ottawa, Canada.

November 2009: ‘Totalitarianism and Education’, Inaugural Professorial Lecture, University of Plymouth.

September 2009: ‘The Totalitarian Imagination’, European Educational Research Association Conference, Vienna, Austria.

June, 2009: ‘The Role of Religion as a Freedom of Expression Campaign Issue in the History of English PEN’, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong.

May 2009: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre, British Academy funded archival research, University of Texas at Austin, USA.

April 2009: Invited speaker, Annual Research Seminar of the Faculty of Educational Sciences, North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.

December 2008: For UNESCO:  From Universal Declaration to World Programme: 1948-2008: 60 Years of Human Rights Education  General Rapporteur, International Commemorative Meeting to Mark 60th Anniversary UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10-11 December 2008, UNESCO Headquarters Paris.


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